As an independent telecom agent, you’ve scoured over articles on ways to market your business for free. But are these freebies costing you time that could be used for selling? Is it time for you to designate some of your marketing tasks to a professional? If hiring an ad agency isn’t in the budget, it doesn’t mean you can’t afford some assistance.So what are your options?
Hire an intern
Research your city’s university and community colleges to find out how to create an internship program. There are plenty of marketing majors out there looking for some experience to put on their resume. If you can offer the requirements of the internship program, you just have to decide whether you will offer an hourly wage or college credit.
This is your best choice if: your marketing plan involves heavy social media. College students haven’t had the chance to establish much of a marketing portfolio, but social media is second nature to most 20-somethings.
Hire a virtual assistant – Outsource
Web sites like ELance and oDesk can connect you with a wealth of marketing professionals with a variety of skill levels. Employer accounts are typically free and the web site takes a percentage of the hired person’s pay.
This is your best choice if: you are looking for assistance with printed marketing materials, a web site, or any other design. Many companies turn to outsourcing for article and blog writing. However, we find that for telecom, this can cost you more time in the long run. Telecom is almost like a foreign language to outsiders, and by outsourcing articles, you might find yourself spending a lot of time on editing articles if the information is inaccurate.
Hire a consultant
Work with a fellow independent contractor and hire a marketing consultant to help you create long term marketing results.
This is your best choice if: you are ready to create a strategy for the bigger picture. A marketing consultant is kind of like an independent telecom consultant in that they are experts in their field and will map out a long term strategy, but they may have to use outside resources for graphics, design, etc.
Hire an ad agency
If business is booming and you’re ready to invest in some higher end marketing, interview a few marketing agencies to find a perfect fit. Check out your city’s Business Journal Big Book of Lists to find the top ranking agencies in the area. Keep in mind that some large agencies require that a potential client earn a minimum annual revenue.
This is your best choice if: you want it all. Advertising and marketing agencies take you through building the core of your brand to executing campaigns. Typically, all of their departments are in-house, and you’ll work with a team of specialists which might include your account manager, a business development expert, a copywriter, and a graphic designer.
A helping hand with your marketing is not out of reach. For those of you who have experience working with outside marketing help, share your advice below!
Are you The Most Interesting Man in the World? Unless you are Jonathan Goldsmith, and were hired by Dos Equis to play the role, probably not. This spokesperson embodies the Dos Equis brand, and he shares their point of view on life, that it should be lived. Following the birth of The Most Interesting Man, Dos Equis saw a significant growth in sales of imported beers and he is now an unforgettable figure in mainstream media.
Like Dos Equis, you will “begin living life” when you properly brand yourself and your business. You will see an increase in sales of not only one product or service, but others associated with your brand as well. This brand becomes the personality that identifies your products, services, company, and most importantly, you. Branding is an important part of growing your business, yet many agents attempt to go about it without a plan.
Rise to the top by following these 3 branding basics:
1.Be unique: Set yourself apart from other telecom agents. Consider your strengths and weaknesses, target audience, and your corporate values. What do you want your brand to mean to your customers? What names, images, and phrases do you want customers to associate with your brand? This discovery process is as important as the brand execution.
2.Embody your message: After you have discovered what makes you unique from your competitors consistently communicate this uniqueness in all aspects of your business. This includes your email signature, website, advertising, email and mail marketing, even how you represent yourself and your company in person.
3.Be the expert: As the telecom professional, you are the expert. Represent the products and services you sell as such. Reach out to your partners and begin testing and using their products and services first hand. By doing this you will be able to give an accurate account of how the phone services and products actually work.
Identify what makes you unique, consistently communicate this message, establish yourself as the expert in the telecom community and begin seeing an increase in sales. This brand is what will set you apart and what will keep you top of mind for your prospects and customers.
What branding basics have you had success with? Anything you want to add? Please share your comments below.
We wanted to pass along some exciting news regarding the IT space and how things are changing. We typically do not talk about ourselves (Intelisys) at all on this blog. It really isn’t about us…we’ve started this site to provide value and guidance to the telecom agent community.
As such, we recently held a symposium of IT business leaders to better understand their businesses, their fears, and how we can better partner together to all achieve more as the face of both industries continues to change.
The result was truly eye-opening, and we learned so much. We are grateful for all the people who took time out to participate and share their ideas.
CRN was there to capture the main points, so we wanted to pass along their coverage of the event. Please click on the links below for more information, and stay tuned as we bring more similar events to cities near you.
Humans are complex creatures by nature. We have millions of thoughts a day, and our emotions can change from positive to negative and back to positive in a very short time. But one thing remains constant about us when it comes to our motivation:
We are always either moving toward pleasure OR moving away from pain.
This one concept is critically important for telecom agents to understand when you are selling your services. Think about it…there really are no other options besides increasing pleasure or avoiding pain. Consider any action you take on a regular basis and ask yourself why you do it. It’s either because you want more pleasure or less pain.
For example, you:
Pay your mortgage and credit card bills on time to avoid late fees (avoid pain)
You work out regularly at the gym to stay healthy and avoid disease (avoid pain) but also to look good on the beach (increase pleasure)
You indulge in your favorite past-time or hobby because it makes you feel happy and alive (increase pleasure)
What is even more essential to understand is this:
MOST people are FAR more motivated by fear of pain than by promise of pleasure.
You can see evidence of this everywhere. Like the person who opts to go to driving school in order to avoid increased car insurance rates, or the child who works hard in school to avoid being grounded or missing the big dance. We simply are more likely to take action when we know the lack of action will result in some type of pain or punishment for us.
What does this mean for your telecom sales business? Plenty! When you understand that your prospective customer has fears and potential pain points, you can position your sales messages to those fears. Here’s a simple process for doing this effectively.
During the discovery phase, try to uncover as many fears and pain points your potential customer has as possible. They may fear not being able to scale fast enough with their growing business, or potentially losing business by having unreliable services. The trick here is that they may not use these words to describe their fears. Instead, they will say things like, "We need guaranteed uptime," or "Scalability is important to us." It’s your job to take what they say and uncover the underlying pain or fear.
Organize the pain points and fears you have uncovered in a list for easy reference. If you use a CRM tool, you may want to put them in there so others working on the account can see them as well.
When presenting your solution, begin by reviewing your prospect’s fears and pain points. Then show them how your service will greatly reduce or eliminate that fear. Refer back to the pain points frequently throughout your presentation. The more pain your prospect feels, the more likely he or she will be to take action to move away from it.
Use the pain points you have discovered to outline a "why now" statement. Your prospect will quickly take action when there is a very strong reason to do so associated with his or her pain points and fears. Are rate increases happening at the end of the month? Is the company in danger of maxing out their bandwidth and losing potential business? When you give your prospective customer strong reasons to act now, your success closing ratio will greatly increase.
Remember, most of us are more motivated by trying to avoid pain than by seeking pleasure. The better you understand this principle, and the better you incorporate it into your sales techniques and presentations, the more successful you will be!
Please share any questions or examples you have of this principle in action in the comments below.
Have you ever seen a herd of zebras? It can be an exhilarating yet dizzying experience. Because of their similar black and white stipe patterns, it’s very difficult to tell where one zebra ends and another begins. Lucky for zebras, this is a survival mechanism that makes them less susceptible to predators, who get confused when chasing them.
But in the world of selling telecom services, nothing is more deadly than being a zebra among other zebras. Just like the hunting lion gets confused chasing all the stripes, so does your prospective customer when you look just like every other telecom agent out there. And when your prospect can’t tell one telecom agent from another, chances are they will go with the lowest bidder, not the best fit. In this scenario, your best approach is to stand out from the stripes, instead of appearing to be another "me too" business.
How can you differentiate from other telecom agents when the basic principles of what you do are the same across the board? Here are some ideas:
Emphasize your expertise. There are many more than 31 flavors of telecom, so it’s impossible to be an expert at all of them. Perhaps you have a specialty in multi-location enterprises or developing Cloud solutions. Whatever your expertise is, make sure to highlight it in your marketing materials and sales presentations.
Dominate a vertical market. Choose one or two vertical markets to focus your attention on and become known as the telecom experts for that industry. When you have industry expertise and can "speak the language" of your prospective customer, you will close more deals with less resistance and be able to charge premium rates. Make sure to develop materials that speak directly to your vertical market. For example, create a web page, case study or marketing slick specifically on "Telecom for Law Firms," or whatever your vertical markets of choice may be. You will also want to get involved in any industry associations or events to further penetrate that industry.
Repetition, repetition and more repetition. Make it known over and over again what your particular expertise is, as well as your vertical markets of choice. Since you can’t be all things to all people, make sure the people you can help know who you are and what you do. Here are just a few places you can repetitiously differentiate yourself: messaging on web site home page, internal pages, brochures and flyers; monthly newsletters; social media posts; blog posts; press releases; business cards, and many many more.
Although additional effort may be required up front properly differentiate yourself from the other "zebras," the effort will be well worth it. As you become known for your particular expertise and as you dominate vertical markets one by one, your sales will require less effort and will continually increase in value.
What has your experience been with differentiating yourself? Any tips or tricks we missed? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.
As a telecom consultant or agent, have you ever considered focusing on a particular industry or niche to service? At first glance, it may seem like you would be limiting yourself, but a closer look reveals greater opportunities when you choose one or two key industries and become an expert at serving them.
A great example of this principle in play is lawyers. We all roll our eyes when the commercials come on the TV or radio, but most lawyers specialize in one aspect of practicing law.
For example, heaven forbid you’re ever in an accident that leaves you severely injured, but if you were, you would most likely hire a lawyer that specializes in personal injury. You wouldn’t call your real estate lawyer friend, except maybe to ask for a referral. Take this a couple of steps further, and you may seek a lawyer that specializes in car accidents or one that specializes in back injuries.
Why would you be more likely to hire that lawyer? Because you would trust that he or she knows that subject intimately and would secure you the best possible outcome. The same goes for your customers when you specialize in their industry.
Benefits of choosing a niche in which to specialize:
• You can focus your efforts more effectively. When you choose a specialty, your approach to sales and marketing is less like a machine gun and more like a shotgun. In that way, you waste fewer bullets and make sure each one you fire actually hits an intended target. Your messaging, your prospecting, your attendance at industry events – EVERYTHING – can be aimed at your niche and cut through the noise of more generalized approaches.
• You become part of a community, and build a solid brand. As you focus your efforts on your chosen niche, you will eventually become part of their community. Make sure to network well with that industry’s leaders and key media people so you will be top of mind for referrals when the need arises. Don’t be surprised if you are asked to speak at industry events or contribute articles to publications and blogs. All of this is great exposure for you and your business, so make sure to take advantage of every opportunity.
• You will get more leads. As you become known as an expert within your chosen niche, you will get more leads – a LOT more. Customers will refer you and those you have networked with will refer you. Everyone wants to know and brag about the “IT” guy or gal, so when you are that person, people will gladly pass your name along when appropriate.
• You will close deals easier. You’ll spend less time selling yourself and your value proposition. Since leads will begin coming to you more frequently based on your industry expertise, many will already be “pre-sold” and will simply need a few questions answered before proceeding.
• You can charge more – As a rule of thumb, a specialist can always charge more than a generalist. As an industry expert with specialized knowledge can easily expect more simply because he or she is providing a lot more value that someone without that particular expertise.
The best part is, once you learn how to dominate one industry you can rinse and repeat for another.
We’d love to hear from you. Are you currently specializing? What industries or market segments are you finding the most success? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.